In 1971 American media was still dominated by white males, even properties marketed to women. Female journalists were pigeonholed into writing about food, fashion, and marriage. That changed when Gloria Steinhem and a collection of New York feminist journalists founded Ms. magazine. They were concerned whether there was a market for a glossy monthly magazine–the first issue sold out in eight days. Proposed articles showed that they were finally writing the stories they wanted to write: “A Secretary is an Office Wife,” “Someone Should Have Liberated Pat Nixon,” and “The Politics of Sex.” The magazine would help launch an entire media market, but its own fortunes waned as the century drew to a close, worn down by infighting, cultural change, and competition. Today, it is still published as a quarterly, and has a solid online presence. Its articles can be found in women’s studies syllabi across the country. New York Magazine, which helped with the initial launch of Ms. takes a multi-faceted look back at an American cultural institution.
How Do You Spell Ms.
For us 90’s kids, Columbia House (and their rival, BMG) were ubiquitous and important purveyors of CDs. Their infamous “8 CDs for a Penny” promotion was touted everywhere and many (including me) were hooked. It had a very tangible effect on the music business: some estimates say 15% of CDs sold in the 1990s were from mail order companies. How did this business model work? When you signed up, you turned on the firehouse–they would keep sending you full-price items on a monthly basis until you cancelled. This actually worked. The A.V. Club talked about working at Columbia House with four now-famous individuals who worked there as 20-somethings in the 90s, including journalist Sasha Frere-Jones and online content god Piotr Orlov.
Four Columbia House insiders explain the shady math behind “8 CDs for a penny”
TED Talks, a boon to cheap HR departments everywhere, started off as an insular West Coast conference for wealthy tech-sector employees. Their talks, which focus on Technology, Education, and Design (TED), sometimes verged into proselytizing, but entertaining proselytizing. The conference honchos decided to put the videos online, hoping for 10,000 total views. The talks, which could not be longer than 18 minutes, proved to be catnip for the internet, gaining 10,000 views the first day and rising exponentially. Three weeks later the CEO decided TED was now a media platform, and the Silicon Valley Self-Help Movement was born. Wired takes a quick look back at the transformation.
The Oral History of TED, a Club for the Rich That Became a Global Phenomenon
Few video games make the jump to pop-culture fame, but Halo is definitely one of them (when Liz Lemon references you, you know you made it). For many years Halo was THE sci-fi shooter and the star of the show was Master Chief, a grunt in power armor who the player often controlled on murderous rampages through enemy ranks. The player’s trusty AI, Cortana, has been named one of the best female and supporting characters in video game history. And all of this video game history started as a side-project to Bungie’s Myst. Waypoint pulls out all the stops for a glorious three-part oral history of the Halo phenomenon.
The Complete, Untold History of Halo
Nobu made its name by serving distinctive seafood with stylish presentation. The original restaurant, called Matsuhisa, was in strip mall. That was also the last strip mall location, as the global sensation now operates entire hotels in addition to the namesake restaurants, known for attracting the glitterati like partner Robert De Niro. Founder Nobu Matsuhisa says his philosophy is that “food is like fashion,” and he is forever trying to synthesize local traditions with his iconic sushi recipes in stylish and memorable ways.
Nobu’s Matsuhisa Turns 30: An Oral History of the Sushi Restaurant Where Tom Cruise Couldn’t Get In
There are millions of 5’11” guys who think they can play in the NBA. There is one Allen Iverson, a “little” man who had an iconic career first with the Georgetown Hoyas, then with the Philadelphia 76ers. Known for playing with a street attitude, he backed it up by playing as hard as anyone on the court, despite nearly always being the smallest player. Iverson made news off the court as well, including with his groundbreaking 10-year, $60M Reebok shoe contract, the largest such guarantee to that point. Nice Kicks goes all out in an 11-chapter oral history that recaps Iverson’s career and successful partnership with Reebok.
The Rise Of Allen Iverson And Reebok Basketball // An Oral History
Penny Hardaway’s career was cut drastically short by knee problems, but for a short run in the mid-90’s he was huge, starring with Shaq on some good Orlando Magic teams, playing on the Dream Team, and making some all-NBA teams. Nike capitalized on his notoriety with the Air Pennys and a corresponding ad campaign starring a sassy puppet alter-ego, Lil Penny. Chris Rock got the gig to voice the puppet and ran with it, bringing attitude and humor in improvised lines that made the campaign one of the most successful ever for Nike. Complex looks back at the 90’s classic.
The Oral History of Lil Penny
The MJQ nightclub was founded in 1994 by George Chang, a 6’4″ Swedish-Chinese party monster. He quickly cultivated hip cache with an eclectic mix of music, including lounge music, dub, jungle, acid jazz, retro-soul and trip-hop. Three years later he upgraded to a larger venue and became a cornerstone of Atlanta nightlife that is still going strong today. Creative Loafing provides an expansive two-part oral history of the club, providing fascinating anecdotes how the club actively evolved with the times in order to stay in business.
Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part I
Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part II
Funny or Die started as a small operation built on the name recognition of Will Ferrell. When the site launched with “The Landlord” as one of its debut videos, its success was assured (it now has over 91M views). The site has had its ups and downs, but a steady diet of celeb-fronted videos has kept the site visible, including Paris Hilton’s memorable “campaign ad” response to a bitchy John McCain commercial. It’s no-frills, low-budget aesthetic has nurtured comedic talents like Billy Eichner and Derek Waters (of Drunk History fame). Wired takes a look back at the site’s first 10 years.
Funny or Die at 10: An Oral History
Austin, Texas has been home to a vibrant Mexican community for over 100 years. Popular Mexican restaurants that still exist today started being established in the 40s and 50s, but it is the breakfast taco of the 80s that has seen the widest influence, now being sold by national fast food chains. Called “a mini home-cooked meal in a tortilla,” by one restaurateur, the phenomenon remains a cherished tradition in Austin today. Texas Monthly provides the history in an excerpt from Austin Breakfast Tacos.
The Most Important Taco of the Day
It was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the computer age, but the guys behind Ms. Pac Man were among the first: They were too financially successful to finish their degrees at M.I.T., dropping out to work full time. They started with enhancement packages that arcade owners could be to make their games more difficult, first with Missile Command, and then with Asteroids. They started to pull in serious cash and incorporated as General Computer Corporation in Massachusetts. They made their big move with an improved version of video game phenomenon Pac Man, signing an agreement with Midway to market their “mod” as a true sequel, another groundbreaking moment that would be repeated many times in software development. The development of Ms. Pac Man incorporated proto-game theory and the result, a more varied and stimulating experience than its predecessor, changed the course of game development forever.
The MIT Dropouts Who Created Ms. Pac-Man: A 35th-Anniversary Oral History
Motherboard recounts the activities of a group of early cyberfeminists from Australia in the early 1990s as they elbowed their way into the boy’s club of the early internet. They did ask not permission, they were not demure, and aesthetically there is a correlation to be drawn with the riot grrrl movement in punk rock. Headstrong, intelligent women marching triumphantly into a male space and righteously planting their flag. Although cyberfeminism as a distinct movement faded before the turn of the century, it was an important early force that continues to evolve throughout electronic media. Motherboard‘s piece includes some examples of caustic visual art produced by the group.
An Oral History of the First Cyberfeminists
AOL FanHouse was a well-funded sports blog with a stable of talented writers and editors, but its peak in the late 2000’s was brief because of the notorious dysfunction of AOL. The site launched in time for football season in 2006 as the former team-blog-oriented format transitioned to a single global blog format. Despite the awful name the site was an immediate success and within a couple years was a top-5 sports site in terms of traffic. Behind the scenes, however, the rot had begun to take hold. Along with setting ambitious traffic goals AOL management made the mistake of getting involved with content, resulting in “Fantasy Sports Girls,” a hilariously misguided attempt to draw male viewers via boobs. The in-house editorial staff rioted en masse, and a talent exodus that had already started grew into a flood. AOL’s usual mix of staff shakeups and rebrandings had the usual end result: The site was sold for scraps in early 2011 and disappeared shortly after. The Comeback provides an excellent seven-part oral history of the quick rise and fall of one of the first national-scope sports blogs.
The Oral History of AOL FanHouse
The Abbey started in 1991 in West Hollywood as a coffee shop before the coffee shop boom. It quickly became a prime spot for working lunches and meetups, catering to a primarily gay clientele, including rights groups. The shop took it to the next level, however, when it tackled nightlife like a caged hyena: Shirtless bartenders, go-go dancers of both sexes, and legendarily generous cocktails. Owner David Cooley takes credit for creating the appletini, which is apparently to die for. I’m thirsty.
Hollywood’s (Very, Very Wild) “Gay Cheers” Turns 25: An Oral History of The Abbey
The Playboy clubs, first launched in 1960 and peaking with over 1,000,000 members and 25,000 Bunnies, epitomized the mainstream “cool” nightclub of the 1960s. Hugh Hefner was able to leverage the cache from his gentleman’s magazine to the restaurant space, with chic bachelor decor and high-end food. And, of course, there were the Bunnies, one of the pre-eminent American sex symbols of the 20th century. Vanity Fair revisits the wildly successful nightclubs for some behind-the-scenes stories.
A Bunny Thing Happened: An Oral History of the Playboy Clubs
Bonus: Pictorial archive of the Playboy Clubs in the 1960s:
The Golden Age of the Playboy Club
Chicago’s Old Town Ale House is a classic working-man’s bar that achieved iconic status through colorful drunks and celebrity patrons. Near the Second City improv theater, and frequented by the likes of Roger Ebert, John Cusack, Dan Ackroyd, and Bill Murray, the bar relocated after a fire to a temporary location 40 years ago and hasn’t moved since. Classic salty barkeep Bruce Elliott keeps things in check, and if anybody gets rowdy they just put on the classical music. The Thrillist mines the depths.
No Shots Allowed: An Oral History of Chicago’s Old Town Ale House
Chef Tom Colicchio’s Manhattan restaurant Craft prioritized the sourcing of top-notch ingredients over culinary trickery and in the process created not only a long-lasting NYC favorite, but also an industry trend. That ethos can also be seen in the restaurant’s decor, with the “signature bare wooden tables, artful placemats and dangling Edison bulbs,” features that also found their way into restaurants across the nation. The Daily Beast celebrates the eatery’s 15-year anniversary with a look back.
The Oral History of Tom Colicchio’s Craft
In 1989 Mexican billionaire Emilio Azcárraga wanted to know why America did not have a national newspaper devoted to sports. Other countries did and America was as sports mad as any of them, he reasoned. In a remarkably short amount of time he decided to start such a paper, and he threw millions at the endeavor, hiring the best talent in the industry and building the necessary infrastructure to get papers in the bins across the country. It was a colossal failure, and a dearly lamented one. As national auto racing writer Ed Hinton put it: “I always tell people, I sailed on that Titanic and it was quite a luxury liner, too.” Grantland takes a look back at an enterprise that foreshadowed much to come in the internet age, but tried to do too much, too fast and for too much money.
The Greatest Paper That Ever Died